Wednesday, May 22, 2013

End Consumers, Beginning Producers

Where to purchase new underwear is what tops the list of things I have been anxious about this spring. There is so much going on at the farm and with our little family, but for some reason, certain news stories linger in my conscience and pervade my thinking as I prep beds and plant and weed.

Lately, I have been thinking about workers who show up unwillingly to stitch clothing in unsafe conditions.

Its a kind of slavery I don't see, I only hear about on the radio and read about on my computer. The kind of slavery that kills 1,200 in a Bangladeshi factory collapse last month. I get filled up with this story, and against John's advice, here I am sitting down to write a blog entry, because its been ages since we updated you all... As I was getting ready to write this, John asked me what I was planning to say. 

We spent the better part of an hour discussing the global tangle that is capitalism as we know it. It was exhausting. He suggested that I might like to write about this topic so I felt better about it, so I might feel like I'm doing something about it. All I could think about was where I would go to buy us underwear. "Hmmm where can I buy (new) underwear? Where did these socks come from? What humanitarian price did I pay for this computer? What was on my grocery list this week that involved workers in unwilling conditions?"
I am overwhelmed by the enormous distance that separates the "end consumer", and the "beginning producer."
Can you imagine meeting one of them on the street?
Who are you? 
What options do you have? 
Let's talk.
Instead, I am one among millions of end consumers; I know who we are, and I know that all together we are steered by economy,  convenience, and tremendous momentum.

I'm not sure why I want to talk about slavery or worker's rights or factory safety except to say it overwhelms me, depresses me, confuses me. Usually, I revert to the tangible in moments when clarity is sought. I hope that is not a weakness, but I would love to head out to the greenhouse, check on things, organize the seedlings, make a list (maybe decide wearing underwear is overrated).  

And then....
Once the underwear issue quiets in my head, I let myself get excited about the season ahead. Flowers blooming. Smells of lilac competing with the smells of manure being spread; both optimistic, heady, and rich (farmers out there will get it, if not our patient neighbors!) 
Oh and there's this:
 I have been chomping at the bit to share this news ever since we hatched the plan in the winter. Drum roll......This year, we are opening a store in Portland. Together, with the good folks at Aurora Provisions, we are partnering to bring our products to the city.

The Details:
FLORA*BLISS an Urban Farm Stand will open this June inside Aurora Provisions
Our focus will be on Cut flowers, Organic Produce and General Farm Goodness 
Our Produce and Flower CSA shares can be delivered to Aurora and Credit CSA shares can be used there.

We have been preparing... the van: thanks to Will from Better Letter Hand Painted Signs.
We picked up some rusty, enameled, and/or galvanized containers for display.
...And we've been planting extra!

In the last week, as the store space has started to take shape, I see old barn boards from our renovation projects getting loaded into the pick-up to be counters and walls and shelving.  I see old sinks resurrected that will fill vessels with water for flower arrangements.  I wash old metal bins to hold tomatoes and berry boxes and garlic scapes... (If you know our farm, you know I like the old stuff. Maybe its because juxtaposed with a bright bouquet or a head of cabbage, it accentuates freshness. )

Anyway this flurry of activity around the store is so exciting for me. I look forward to seeing the smiles of customers as they walk out with their arms loaded full of flowers and produce, from our farm, onto the city streets.
A well-wisher taking a bouquet to a friend at the hospital.
A family filling their salad bowl with arugula, radicchio, lettuce, and chives.
Adding more heft to Aurora Provision's deli case offerings...
John thinks this is my brain coming full circle. He reminds me that we are also part of the "beginning producers" as well as the "end consumers." Closing the gap between the two worlds is part of the reason we've chosen this work. The store space in Portland will be an embodiment of the close link we have between producer and consumer. 

Who are you? What options do you have? Let's talk.
Its a complicated world, even when you try hard to play it simple.
I'll let you know when I make progress on my underwear purchases.
Blessings on the meal-


  1. Such a great post. Something that plays on my mind constantly. Just wanted to say how inspiring I find Broadturn Farm. Planning on doing something a little smaller when we find our land, and trying not to be impatient about it in the meantime!

    Can I ask you what are the black strips running along the field, in the photo with the tractor throwing up the compost/mulch. 6th photo down.

    love your work!

  2. Emma-
    Those strips are black plastic mulch we put down with a plastic mulch layer. We plant long season crops that (A)become challenging to weed based on their size(B)benefit from some extra soil warming
    We mulch with leaves we collect from neighbors between the plastic with a manure spreader. Ideally, once planted, we just do a little "rouge weeding" and the rest is harvest a perfect season.

  3. Hi Stacy,

    I got some underwear through cottonfield usa years ago and was happy with it. It lasted a long time, which is another reason the higher pricetag seemed worth it : D

    Also, AWESOME sign on your van and such beautiful photos of flowering shrubs and trees! Love this time of year!


  4. This is a great post. This questions plague me often. I actually teach a unit to my 8th graders on modern day slavery and fair trade in order to try to make some sense of it and help them to understand the world in which they live. By the way there is a company in Los Angeles which sells underwear and they use fair working practices called American Apparel. They also have a store in Boston.

  5. Wow! Great post -- first congratulations on the foray into the city! LOVE the new sign!
    I would be curious on your underwear findings as well, as weird as that may sound. I too hate supporting companies that do not value their employees, but underwear? Where does one get ethically produced skivvies?? And I'm in Canada, so the American Apparel suggestion doesn't work in my town.
    And I must say, your posts have inspired me to plant more flowers on our little piece. Thank you Stacy :)

  6. Good morning, are you aware that a Google image search for ''Complicated underwear'' you are the 15th result. All the best Seaun and Daventry.